Passports of South Africa
  • South Africa's passport has been ranked the 56th most powerful in the world, with visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 101 destinations.
  • Its position has remained stable, according to the Henley Passport Index.
  • Brazil and the US have seen large declines in travel freedom due to the coronavirus crisis. 
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The (relatively weak) power of the South African passport has remained stable over the past year, according to the Henley Passport Index.

The index is an annual power ranking of passports determined by the number of destinations a passport holder can enter without a visa. It found that a passport from Japan opens more doors than a passport from anywhere else in the world, followed by Singapore and Germany and South Korea, in joint third place.

South Africa is ranked as the 56th most “powerful” passport, with visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 101 destinations. Its ranking remained unchanged from last year.

The survey found that the US and Brazil saw large declines in travel freedom. This is largely due to the European Union’s ban on US travellers due to the risk of coronavirus infections from that country. The UK has also excluded the US from its list of countries that can travel there without having to endure a two-week quarantine on arrival.

More than 132,000 Americans have died in the pandemic, with almost 3 million infected.

While the US passport is still placed 7th place on the Henley index, with its citizens able to access 185 destinations around the world without requiring a visa in advance, the number of destinations they can actually visit shrank due to the travel ban.

“The US’s dramatic decline in passport power means that Americans find themselves with a similar level of travel freedom usually available to citizens of Mexico (25th on the index, with a score of 159), current travel bans notwithstanding, albeit temporarily,” the researchers found.

Brazilian passport holders have also found their passport strength greatly diminished, after the EU also imposed a travel ban on it as well. (South Africa has also been excluded from the UK’s quarantine-free list, and is also not allowed entry into the EU.)

Brazil usually ranks around 19th - but the loss of access to the EU means Brazilians currently have roughly the same extent of travel freedom as citizens of Paraguay (36th on the index)

There are more than 1.6m confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil, with almost 66,000 deaths. 

Managing partner and head of South, East and Central Africa at investment migration firm Henley & Partners, Amanda Smit, says although the full impact of the coronavirus on global mobility is yet to be determined, it is encouraging to see the resilience of the South African passport up to this point.

Still, few people can use it currently. South Africans are still not allowed to travel overseas for leisure. International travel is only allowed if the resident is returning to work, to study, or to go to their residence overseas.

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